UK businesses must start "spending smart" and "investing to save" if they are to avoid high extra costs in future due to climate change, a government committee has warned.
In the first national assessment of the country’s readiness to deal with the impact of global warming, the Climate Change Committee’s adaptation sub-committee found the UK very poorly prepared, with only 6% of companies, local authorities and other public bodies having taken any action to tackle the issue.
This was despite the fact that one in three UK companies had already been ‘significantly affected’ by extreme weather events such as flooding over the last three years.
The problem was, said Lord John Krebs, chairman of the report group, that while the British were "good at talking and planning", they were "less good at acting". It also did not help that "all too often, adaptation is name-checked in policies, but it’s not clear what that means on the ground", he added.
But Krebs warned that if the UK did not start acting to prepare for climate change now, it would be too late. "It is not necessarily about spending more, but about spending smart and investing to save. If we get it right, we can save money in the short term and avoid large extra costs in the future. The time has come to move from talking to acting," he said.
While adaptation was not an alternative to cutting carbon emissions, it was a necessary complement and involved adjusting the way that both organisations and individuals did things in order to be prepared for the future.
For example, businesses should think strategically when choosing locations for their property, ensuring that they do not build on flood plains or misuse green space. They should also work with government to ensure that power stations, transport infrastructure and flood barriers were built with climate change in mind, while also ensuring that such structures were resilient.
The report also called for speedy action by the government to introduce tighter regulation and funding to ensure, for instance, that new buildings were better insulated and protected from weather events such as heat waves or flooding.
But it also said that climate change presented companies with opportunities in terms of developing new products and services in areas such as retrofitting old buildings.